"By 1990, Hispanics will be the largest ethnic group in the United States," Rep. Matthew Martinez (D-Calif.) was saying "We have contributed our share of artists, war heroes, scientists, movie stars and athletes. We've made an impact on this country. We're making it, but we're quiet about it. We're not tooting our horn."
It was the eighth annual Congressional Hispanic Caucus dinner, held last night at the Washington Hilton, and Martinez, who takes over as chairman today, was warming up for his one-year term. "We have a right to be a part of it [America], now let us in. Let us be mainstream Americans. We're not asking for charity, we're asking for parity."
The biggest issues of concern to the Caucus now, according to Rep. William Richardson (D-N.M.), the outgoing chairman, are immigration reform, relations with Latin America and education. "We need to unify the Hispanic community into one agenda," he emphasized.
Approximately 1,500 people paid $150 each to attend the dinner, which Richardson said raised more money than ever before. Amid the elegant trappings, including an orchestra and dance floor and a menu of filet mignon and baked alaska, the evening had a distinct tone of commitment, from both inside and outside the Hispanic community. Guests such as D.V. Pensabene, manager of federal government affairs for Chevron Inc., said they had come because Hispanics "are our friends."
Secretary of Labor William Brock, who gave the keynote speech after dinner, told the group, "There is more patriotism in this community than in any other community with which I am familiar."
Rep. Manuel Lujan (R-N.M.), the only Republican Caucus member, emphasized the pride he and others take in being Americans. "When I walk on to the floor of the House [of Representatives]," he said, "I don't want to walk in as a Republican, Hispanic, Catholic or whatever those designations might be. I want to be looked at as an American."